One playoff appearance in the last 11 seasons and three straight years of fourth-place finishes have been the story of the Los Angeles Angels. Whether or not the Halos can end their seven-year playoff drought remains to be seen, but it could be their time to shine in 2021.
Earlier this offseason the Angels were projected as an American League Wild Card team, though some might not feel as confident in that prediction. What might lead to believe the Halos can contend is the lack of competition within their division. PECOTA also had three teams in the AL West to finish with a record below .500 this season, after four teams did so in 2020.
The Angels winning the AL West division is more realistic than most predict.
This Halos roster has big-name talent, including two of the best players in the league in Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. Add in a healthy Shohei Ohtani, hitting-machine David Fletcher, and you have arguably one of the best top of the orders in baseball.
The additions of shortstop Jose Iglesias, outfielder Dexter Fowler, and catcher Kurt Suzuki don’t jump off the page in terms of star-power, but they could provide enough to give the Angels one of the most productive offenses in the league with their current group.
Through 26 spring training games, the Halos currently rank top-10 in the league in team batting average (.261-9th), runs scored (130-8th) , and on-base plus slugging percentage (.797-6th).
Offense won’t be the problem in 2021. The concern will be the main culprit of the past few seasons in Anaheim–pitching.
The Angels currently have the fourth-worst team ERA (5.43) and are tied for the fifth-worst WHIP (1.480) in both the Cactus and Grape Fruit League. Sure it’s just spring training, but the poor performances on the mound has been a consistent theme. It doesn’t help that general manager Perry Minasian and owner Arte Moreno did not bring in any big-name arms to fix the problem.
The Halos will use Dylan Bundy as their ace this season, likely followed by new additions Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb. All three pitchers would be middle-of-the-pack options on more competitive teams, but the Halos are hoping to use them as their top three starters.
Another large ask will be of Ohtani as the team’s sixth-man. It could be a tall order considering he is coming off an injury and has made just two starts combined since the 2018 season. More questions come with the backend of the rotation as both Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning have struggled this spring.
Both Minasian and Moreno decided to play it safe this offseason when they could have turned this current roster into a powerhouse. The new additions all come on one-year deals so if the Angels fall out of contention by the trade deadline expect a head start on a retool for 2022.
The good news is there’s enough talent on this team where they can be competitive in an AL West division where each team has its flaws. It’s disappointing there were no high-level impact players brought in to make this team even better than they are right now, but maybe this group can prove otherwise. If the Halos can stay in the hunt during the first few months of the season, a trade can be made to make the Angels a legitimate contender in the division.